Jim Sinegal to retire as Costco CEO

September 6, 2011

Issaquah-based warehouse club selects longtime manager as successor

Costco members, breathe a sigh of relief.

Incoming CEO Craig Jelinek does not intend to change anything about the $1.50 hot-dog-and-soda combo.

“That price will never increase — I can’t say never, because you never know — but I’ve got to tell you, I don’t want to be the one that does it,” Craig Jelinek joked Sept. 1, a day after Costco CEO and cofounder Jim Sinegal announced plans to retire.

Sinegal, a legendary fan of the company’s hot dog deal, plans to step down as CEO on Jan. 1 after transforming Issaquah-based Costco from a lone South Seattle warehouse almost 30 years ago to 592 outposts around the globe nowadays. The frugal Sinegal built the empire by offering generous benefits to employees and deep discounts to customers.

Jim Sinegal

Jelinek, president and chief operating officer at the No. 3 retailer in the United States and the largest employer in Issaquah, started at Costco as a warehouse manager in 1984.

“Costco has a very strong culture and a deep bench of management talent,” Sinegal said in a statement. “I have total confidence in Craig’s ability to handle his new responsibilities and feel we are fortunate as a company to have an executive of his caliber to succeed me as chief executive of Costco.”

Though Sinegal, 75, is stepping down as CEO, he intends to remain at Costco through January 2013 to advise and assist Jelinek, 59, through the transition. The outgoing CEO also plans to remain on the Costco board.

Both executives learned about retail from warehouse club pioneer Sol Price, the late FedMart and Price Club founder. (Price Club and Costco merged in 1993.)

Costco board members selected Jelinek as president and chief operating officer in February 2010 — a sign the company intended for the longtime employee to succeed Sinegal.

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